Since the early 1900’s kids have been dressing up as characters from movies, books and comics. In the early part of the century it was pretty much just re-enactments of “Cowboys and Indians” based on the westerns that kids would see at the local matinée. But all that changed with the release of Timely publications “Marvel Comics #1” in October of 1939. Suddenly kids wanted to dress up as a super-hero. Sadly, many kids injured themselves badly when trying to dress as “The Human Torch” (the hero of the comic) but when in 1941 Marvel created the first patriotically themed superhero Captain America, every kid that could afford a comic wanted to dress up exactly like him.
Cosplay, American style, was born. Except back then they did not call it that, and throughout most of the 20th century it was just kids dressing up as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman or any number of comic book characters. Of course, adults would sometimes dress up too, but mostly only at Halloween or in mental institutions. For many years kids would have fun fighting imaginary villains, squealing with glee on Christmas morning when they got their new Spiderman outfit. Of course they looked silly, but they were kids, and kids are meant to do silly things.
Around the same time in Japan, while the Americans were creating superheroes that could simply fly or see through walls, manga cartoons added the completely Japanese twist of underage girls, vinyl panties, tiny angel wings, frilly aprons and blue hair. They had immunity to radiation, they could write a name in a book and make people die and the could even give a pill to any inanimate object and make it come alive. There are almost no limits what-so-ever to what Manga characters can do. Their powers grow with different levels, thus ensuring that there is always some new twist (and something new to sell). Japanese superheroes (and villains) can do things only imagined by U.S super-heroes. The potential for marketing products to geeks was enormous. (Incidentally, Captain America only took on the Germans and never the Japanese during World War II for fear of having to go head to head with a Manga character.)
It wasn’t long before people began dressing up as characters from these highly unbelievable films, anime, video games and manga tales replete with shrieking animals, tentacles, and heart-wrenchingly tearful emotional flashbacks to other tearful emotional flashbacks. In Japan where it is discouraged to say what you think or act how you really want to, dressing up as a Manga demon beast slut with tentacles provided an outlet for life in a strict society.
There are claims that the term Cosplay came from American actor Bill Cosby, who would often dress up as fictional characters to amuse children and to hide his identity in public. The truth is more likely that the term was coined by a Japanese Anime studio exec while he was attending a Worldcon geek comic convention and was not only completely amazed that so many people would dress up as cartoons but also by chance because he could not pronounce “costume play” properly (just try it with a Japanese accent).
Then, in 1990, the US and Japan made a trade agreement to exchange culture. The US offered Japan bad 80’s music and hairstyles for large quantities of Manga cartoons. Since people in the US were desperate for culture of any kind, the fad caught on quickly and is even attributed to saving the struggling Japanese economy after the NKE stock exchange crash in 1990. Manga and cosplay went global and since has been widely exported to most of South-east Asia and has recently shown up in London and Paris. And while the Japanese are perfect for this type of entertainment as the actually already look like manga cartoons, Americans and Europeans just look silly.
Last Exit to Reality managed to con one of our reporters into going undercover and assimilate with cosplayers. It was both dangerous and scary, and although she may be institutionalized for some years to come, we appreciate her getting the story. We sent her to the 2011 Manga Convention in Taiwan dressed as the cheerful, altruistic and sympathetic Tohru Honda. She was trained in the way of cosplay speak for weeks before going under-cover. The first thing our reporter noticed is that there were people from all over the world dressed up as their favorite cartoon character. From South Park to Manga and The Simpsons to Superman, the cartoon world was very well represented. Because they are often unable to hold down real jobs or relationships, cosplayers prefer to associate only with their own kind. Tohru (which we will call her for her own safety) discovered that nearly all the people she spoke to actually believe dressing up gives them the special powers, beauty or even brains of their chosen character. She found that people were spending (or wasting, depending on your opinion) huge sums of money to dress as a cartoon in order to find a cartoon mate.
Once she had people in her confidence, she was able to get a look into the darker side to cosplay. She met Naruto, who told her how he was getting tired of the scene a little because some cosplayers were criticizing and treating others as inferior because the quality of their character wasn’t perfect. Some even resorted to sabotage. He was particularly upset by the fact that many cosplayers were now resorting to planking in order to get more attention. (If you don’t know what that is, see here)
But when she met Edward and Alphonse Elric (The Full Metal Alchemists) things began to get strange. They wanted to bring her to a secret local convention of cosplay porn where, they claimed, it is much easier to meet up with a cosplay partner. Our reporter gracefully declined but was met with “My god you’re so hot! I have a level 5 sword, like a big one. So… wanna do it? You got a condom? Never mind that, actually, I have a level 12 protect spell that will protect us”. She naturally declined and told them they were crazy. But then they were on to her.
We managed to safely retrieve our reporter with most of her sanity and dignity intact but not before word spread that she was probably anti-cos, most likely an undercover agent and was called a “hater” numerous times by various living cartoons. (Hater is the ultimate insult used by cosplayers to deride non-believers). Cosplayers can get very upset with anyone who doesn’t believe that their powers are real or that dressing up like a cartoon is for losers.
In her research, before being caught out, she had the chance to interview about 40 cosplayers and found a disturbing correlation; Out of every 10 cosplayers, only 3 had partners. Only 1 out of those 3 had a human partner. (The other 2 of course being deeply involved with a hot manga character). But wait, there’s more: Not one cosplayer thought that this was the slightest bit strange.
Cosplay should not be confused with Cos-Play (the act of utilizing Romaine or Cos lettuce in a sex act) or with Causeplay (pretending to be interested in a cause because it is trendy to do so) even though both are as pathetic as the first.
You can send flowers or well wishes to our reporter at our office but please don’t use cartoon related greeting cards.
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